Special Reports

Liberty University Fined $14M for Clery Act Violations


The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office has levied a historic $14 million fine against Liberty University in Virginia for breaching federal campus safety regulations, marking the largest penalty ever imposed for violations of the Clery Act.

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Northern-Virginia-Photographer)

The fine stems from Liberty University's failure to provide accurate disclosures, comply with requirements to prevent sexual violence, issue timely warnings about criminal activities, and send emergency notifications to the campus community about potentially hazardous situations.

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Investigation and Implications

The Education Department initiated an investigation in February 2022 after receiving multiple complaints regarding Clery Act violations, following reports by ProPublica in 2021 detailing accounts from college women who alleged their reports of sexual assault were dismissed or discouraged by Liberty officials.

Richard Cordray, Federal Student Aid’s chief operating officer, emphasized that the fine sends a clear message that colleges must uphold Clery Act regulations to ensure campus safety. Cordray affirmed that they would continue to hold schools accountable if they failed to fulfill their obligations. 

While Liberty University was initially warned of a potential $37.5 million fine, the actual penalty of $14 million reflects the outcome of an extensive review by the Education Department. Despite Liberty's objections to the fine's magnitude, officials stressed the severity of the violations and the need for appropriate consequences.

University Response and Future Monitoring

Liberty University has agreed to allocate an additional $2 million over the next two years to enhance campus safety measures. The university has already invested $10 million since 2022 in infrastructure improvements, security assets, and personnel recruitment, including experts in law enforcement and Title IX compliance.

Acknowledging past deficiencies, Liberty expressed regret for its shortcomings and affirmed its commitment to rectifying the situation. However, the university contested what it perceived as disparate treatment compared to other institutions by the Education Department.

Education Department officials defended the severity of Liberty's violations, highlighting failures to comply with various Clery Act mandates, particularly regarding sexual violence reporting and crime statistics accuracy.

The agency will closely monitor Liberty University until April 2026 to ensure compliance with promised improvements. Failure to uphold Clery Act regulations could jeopardize the university's access to federal financial aid and result in further penalties.

Implications for Campus Safety and Accountability

The unprecedented fine against Liberty University underscores the federal government's commitment to enforcing campus safety laws. With colleges facing increasing scrutiny over their handling of sexual violence and crime reporting, institutions must prioritize compliance with regulations like the Clery Act to ensure the well-being of their students.

Beyond financial penalties, the Education Department's monitoring of Liberty University serves as a warning to other colleges nationwide. Failure to address safety concerns and adhere to federal mandates could result in significant repercussions, impacting not only institutional reputation but also student welfare.

Moving forward, the case of Liberty University prompts a broader conversation about accountability in higher education. As institutions navigate complex challenges related to campus safety, proactive measures and transparent reporting mechanisms are essential to fostering a culture of safety and support for all students.

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